A linguistic tour of northern Spain

In a few weeks I’ll be heading to northern Spain with a friend for a 16-day trip. We organized our itinerary around language-oriented destinations that I learned about while researching my book, and also from their inclusion in the Camino de la lengua castellana (here and here). These are sites relevant to the history of (Castilian) Spanish, beginning with Roman and pre-Roman ruins. Therefore, we won’t be visiting the Basque Country and Galicia, though we will be spending some time in Catalonia.

Our trip will begin in Madrid and circle clockwise, ending in Barcelona. Below is a map and also an outline of where we’ll go and what we’ll see. (I’ve left off the usual tourist sites, such as the Prado, which I always revisit when in Spain.) I’d be interested in hearing any other ideas that you have. And, Dear Reader, if you live in Spain, or will be visiting in June, perhaps we could even get together IRL (In Real Life).

I plan to be blogging regularly while on the road.

  • Madrid
  • Salamanca
    • En route from Madrid we will stop at the Castro de Ulaca, a hilltop Celtic ruin.  [I later posted about this visit here]
    • We won’t have time to visit Ávila but can at least admire the walls before we turn off for Ulaca.
    • Although Salamanca doesn’t have any specifically linguistic sites, it is a gorgeous city with Spain’s oldest university. [I later posted about this visit here]
  • Valladolid
    • We’ll stop here en route to Burgos to see the Universidad de Valladolid, the national sculpture museum, and another Cervantes museum, in the house where Cervantes lived when Don Quijote was published.  [I later posted about this visit here]
    • I’m also hoping to connect with an academic pen-pal of mine, a faculty member at the university who researches Spanish slips of the tongue. She furnished the epigraph for the relevant section in my book: Muchas tardes, buenas gracias.
  • Burgos: home town of El Cid and the cradle of the Castilian language, this is a city I’ve longed to see for years. [I posted about our visit to Burgos here and here]
    • The spectacular cathedral is built on the site of the 1080 Council of Burgos, a church meeting at which clergy and royalty discussed the problem of enforcing the use of Latin in the mass. This is an early milestone indicating that Spanish Romance had diverged dramatically from Latin.
    • The city is filled with El Cid connections, from our hotel (El Mesón del Cid) to the Plaza del Mío Cid with its iconic statue, to El Cid’s purported sword Tizona, on display in the Museo de Burgos.
    • Besides the Museo de Burgos we’ll also visit the Museo de la Evolución Humana for its relevance to the peninsula’s prehistory. (didn’t happen)
    • A day trip to the monastery at Santo Domingo de Silos, where the Glosas silenses were written, may be possible if we have time. (didn’t happen)
  • Monasterios de Yuso y Suso [I later posted about this visit here]
    • This will be a pit stop en route to Girona.
    • It is where the Glosas Emilianenses were found — the first examples of written Castilian.
  • Girona
    • Girona has some well-regarded museums, including one devoted to local Jewish history, and an archaeological museum.
  • Costa Brava
    • Our home base here will be the seaside village of L’Estartit. I predict some beach time in addition to language tourism!
    • One day trip will be to Ullastret, which has excellent pre-Roman (“Iberian”) ruins and a branch of the Catalonian Museum of Archaeology. I illustrated a lead plaque from Ullastret in my book and am looking forward to seeing it in person. [I later posted about this visit here]
    • Another day trip will be to Empúries, the site of the first Roman settlement in the Iberian Peninsula — in other words, the place where Latin came to Spain. [I later posted about this visit here]
  • Barcelona

14 thoughts on “A linguistic tour of northern Spain

  1. Tracy Patterson

    I highly recommend going Northwest to Oviedo, Asturias and Comillas, Santillana del Mar, Potes, in Cantabria. You will find beautiful ruins assiciated with the Romans in both areas. Also, you can actually hike a stretch of a Roman road from village to village as a day hike in the Picos de Europa! Not to be missed!

    1. jhochberg Post author

      I agree! — but alas these beautiful destinations will need to await a future visit. I’m already abandoning home and hearth for sixteen days…Actually, my top priority for my next trip to Spain has to be Andalusia, which I haven’t seen since I was a college student. So much to see!

    2. jhochberg Post author

      Hi Tracy,

      I am now planning a trip to northern northern Spain next summer, as you recommended two years ago! My husband’s cousin is joining me for part of the trip. We will spend a few nights in Picos de Europa and a few nights at a charming coastal village. Would Comillas fit the bill for the latter, or do you have another recommendation? Where do I find information on that day hike you mentioned?

      – Judy

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